Sakyo Komatsu's 1973 novel Japan Sinks hit a nerve for a whole generation of Japanese people, and spawned two movie versions. (Just as the name suggests, it was a novel in which the tectonic plates under Japan suddenly shift, setting off volcanos, earthquakes and tsunamis, killing millions.)

After the giant earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, Komatsu said he wanted to live longer, to see how Japan evolved after the catastrophe. But sadly, he died this week of pneumonia, aged 80.

Komatsu's other books included Peace on Earth, an alternate-history novel in which World War II doesn't end in 1945, and Nihilistic Corridor, in which humanity survives into the future by evolving into a new species. Komatsu wrote a dozen books in all, and is considered one of Japan's leading science fiction authors. [New York Times]